Environmentalism in the world and the struggles conducted by political and ecological movements have enjoyed, in history, the contributions of pioneer women whose testimonies must be remembered, retraced, and celebrated because they help us train our conscience, starting from the places and streets we inhabit.
The effects of the environmental crisis are now evident in our daily lives. In addition to the non-trivial climatic and meteorological points of view, the social and economic implications are increasingly tangible and are widening many existing inequalities in our society. These are phenomena that confirm that adaptation to climate change requires mitigation policies that aim to reduce or prevent emissions but are also attentive to people's needs. In this context, women and, in general, marginalized categories are more likely to be penalized due to the absence of adequate policies.
One of these issues is related to the gender dimension; as the OECD points out in its Gender and Environmental Statistics report, "In advanced economies, there are differences in exposure to pollution and hazardous chemicals between men and women, linked to consumption habits, physiological differences, and socioeconomic background gaps."
Also, in this theme, many marginalized people adopt a more sustainable lifestyle out of necessity. They do this, for example, by using public transport more or by paying more attention to the cost of bills. However, this does not change the situation. According to data collected by the 40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ActionAid, and Eurostat, worldwide, "80% of people forced to move due to climate change are women; only 15% of landowners are women, and only 15% of ministers dealing with the environment and energy transition are women."
The male world comes together, discusses, and plans to change or save the world. Women, on the other hand, engage in daily conversations and take action through small and large gestures to defend the environment and secure a better future. However, they continue to feel insecure in the face of a purely patriarchal society and are often undervalued when it comes to macho politics and finance. Their intentions, thoughts, and actions for the common good and the economic impact they have demonstrate rationality, foresight, and courage in the choices they make, all while keeping the future of the planet in mind.
The survey carried out by the Nielsen Consumer Panel reveals that women exhibit ecological behaviors. They prefer public transport over cars (30% compared to 22% of men), opt for products without chemicals (37% versus 27% of men), and bring their own shopping bags to avoid wasting plastic (69% of women and 54% of men). Moreover, women are more willing to pay a little extra for products that respect the environment and are ethically produced (14% of women against 12% of men).
Furthermore, women use their time and patience to separate waste for recycling (78% compared to 72% of men) and pay careful attention to waste disposal. They also dispose of spent batteries in the appropriate containers (68% versus 64% of men) and show a greater inclination to read books, magazines, and newspapers on electronic media (e.g., the Kindle) to reduce paper consumption (20% versus 17% of men).
In summary, women's actions and choices exemplify their commitment to environmental preservation and sustainability. Despite the challenges posed by a patriarchal society, they continue to play a crucial role in shaping a greener and more conscientious world.
The feminine strength of ecology and attention to the environment is not so much to be found in striking gestures and manifestations as in everyday life—that small daily and constant commitment that makes the difference.
It is therefore evident that the female world pays much more attention to the protection of the environment than the male one, without boasting about it or publicly acclaiming it. These gestures are not flashy and are not made to be noticed, but they are a symptom of caring attention and care for our planet, which men should also learn.
The enthusiasm and strength of Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate, the tenacity of Kenyan Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, the courage of Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of Ecuadorian indigenous women, on the front line for the defense of the Amazon, and the diplomatic skill of Christiana Figueres, Costa Rican, executive secretary of the United Nations "Framework Convention" on climate change between 2010 and 2016, were fundamental mediators in the negotiation of the Paris Agreements. Then again, among ministers, deputies, mayors, activists, and private citizens, the battle for climate change and environmental protection is led by women. They have different ages, stories, backgrounds, visions, and roles, but they are united by a common intent: to stop ecological disasters. Some of them, like Thunberg and Nakate, are very young and have managed to bring their peers from all over the world to the streets with Fridays For Future, a movement with an unparalleled membership in recent history, yet female participation in the ecological field has not yet found the space it deserves.
According to the American environmentalist and writer Paul Hawken, women's emancipation and education would be among the six most efficient plans to combat climate change, as he writes in his essay "Drawdown," one of the most important ecological texts. How can we reverse the course to make women truly protagonists of the ecological transition?
First of all, we should encourage the study of STEM subjects, which belong to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as they are fundamental to deciphering the climate crisis. Italy has taken a virtuous approach by launching a four-year high school for ecological and digital transition with the involvement of four universities. In recent years, the stereotype of girls being more suited for arts and literature and less predisposed to numbers has, fortunately, been shattered. However, globally, according to the "We Stem for Our Future" report, only 35% of those enrolled in STEM faculties are women, with significant differences when considering different disciplines: only 7% of girls decide to study engineering, compared to 22% of boys.
To make decisions related to the common good and effectively address the climate crisis, we must give more consideration to the participation of women and minorities in decision-making processes, which is currently very limited. Leadership is still an area where male presence surpasses female representation. As highlighted by the 2022 report of the European Institute for gender equality (EIGE), although the gender gap has been reduced over the years, it persists, and the situation is even more complex when considering minorities in society. The “ENERGIA” network, which focuses on the links between sustainability and equality, emphasizes that "the ecological transition must fully include women and utilize their leadership, entrepreneurial skills, and participation to accelerate the achievement of universal sustainable energy and reduce the gender gap”. These objectives must go hand in hand with addressing the needs of minorities. Rethinking political participation and decision-making processes, as well as working processes, serves as a starting point for a just transition. Without cultural evolution, the ecological transition risks perpetuating inequalities and widening the social gap.